Haughton, Hugh, and Adam Phillips. Introduction to Selected Poems of Richard Howard. London: Penguin, 1991, pp. vii-xvi.

Summers, Claude, and Ted-Larry Pebworth. "'We Join the Fathers': Time and the Maturing of Richard Howard." Contemporary Poetry 3.4 (1978): 13-35.

David Bergman

HOWE, FANNY (1940- ) Associated with the language school in contemporary poetry, Fanny Howe is recognized as an innovator in the analytic lyric, a type of experimental poetry that does not abandon the lyric form (see lyric poetry). Her poetry is concerned with questions of spirituality and grace in a modern, material world; she deftly balances abstract, encoded language and a moral vision firmly rooted in lived experience. Commenting on her development as a poet, Howe has written, "The language of the other—the sound of what is only half-understood, always out of context, not mine . . . what you might call Mystification—became a hidden credo of mine . . . [t]he paradigm . . . was the essence of code, of hiddenness." ("Artobiography" 197). She has been compared to Emily Dickinson for her compressed, metaphysical lyrics and to her contemporary Rae armantrout for her use of experimental, abstract language to explore political themes, occasionally concerning gender and sexuality, but also dealing with poverty, violence, and religious faith.

Howe was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her mother was an actress and playwright at the Abbey Theater in Dublin before starting the Poet's Theater in Cambridge; her father was a law professor at Harvard University and a civil rights activist. Her sister, Susan howe, is also a poet. Fanny Howe has published more than 14 books of poetry and numerous works of fiction, including several novels for adolescents. She has received two National Endowment for the Arts grants (1970 and 1991) and was chosen to be a fellow of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College in 1975.

Howe writes frequently about the desire for paradise and for an end to all forms of human oppression, elaborating in a statement on her poetics: "Words which consciously aspire to the future are heightened by the desire to rise above, be free of, the tyranny of history. They aim for a heightened place—a paradise" ("The Ecstatic"). Her 1986 collection, Introduction to the World, comprises a series of untitled, 10-line meditations on morality and spiritual awareness, all constructed of self-consciously chance or arbitrary language. She combines, as she writes in the prefatory prose poem, "Wishes," "chance with deliberate choice. . . . Lines as branches, us all swinging from." The culminating effect of this strategy is not one of technical play merely for its own sake, but rather of a singular austerity, a kind of metaphysical purity, arrived at through the sheer presence of language. She closes the collection, "freedom is synonymous with less, not more" ("After-Thoughts"), arguing ultimately for an existence purged of human-made excesses.

In this and other collections of her poetry, Howe's meticulously crafted and compressed writings often blur accepted boundaries between poetry and prose, and the reader thus experiences in multiple registers the poet's profound moral vision.

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